Fitzgerald Brings New Life to FSU Football

With the spring season coming to a close, the Frostburg State football team continues to work hard in preparation for the 2014 season. The Bobcats concluded the 2013 season with a disappointing record of 1-9. After that disastrous season Frostburg State University director of athletics Troy A. Dell decided to bring in DeLane Fitzgerald as the new head coach. If there is anyone who can turn this program around it is Coach Fitzgerald, the most successful head coach in Southern Virginia University (SVU) history.

When Fitzgerald was named the Head Coach of SVU’s football team in 2009 they averaged only two wins a year over the entire history of the program. During his five year tenure he set the school record for wins in a season twice, including this past 2013 season when Fitzgerald led SVU to an 8-2 season, the best record in the nation of all NCAA Division D-III independent teams.

Coach Fitzgerald believes that this 180 degree turnaround is the product of hard work and accountability on and off the field, and hopes to replicate his success here at Frostburg using the same key steps. Fitzgerald places a huge emphasis on academics and player’s GPA.  Last year the minimum GPA to stay out of study hall was a 2.5, and players only had to go four times a week. With Coach Fitzgerald at the helm though, players who have a GPA under 2.75 are required to attend study hall five nights a week, and he intends on increasing the required grade point average to a 3.0 in the future. Fitzgerald also requires all freshmen players to attend study hall; this helps with player retention, making sure that they are doing well in school.  “I absolutely believe a kid’s GPA is a direct reflection on his accountability, in life and on the football field,” said Coach Fitzgerald, “They understand that if they don’t go to class, they won’t play football here.”

Another focal point of Coach Fitzgerald is the team’s level of commitment in the weight room. “When I got here they were only lifting weights for one hour, four days a week,” said Fitzgerald, “To be successful in college football you need to lift two hours per day, four days a week.” In addition to extending the amount of time spent lifting weights, Fitzgerald also said that they have changed the type of lifts they were doing.

In regards to the upcoming fall season Fitzgerald has high hopes and expectations. “The situation here is a lot better than the situation in 2009 when I took over Southern Virginia, and we’ll get this thing turned around,” said Coach Fitzgerald, “I expect us to be competitive every Saturday.”

In addition to the off the field changes, Fitzgerald has also changed things schematically on the field. He plans to run multiple different formations offensively with several different personal packages. Coach Fitzgerald said that the offensive system they will be running will be most similar to that of Stanford. In previous years Frostburg’s offense had been a no-huddle hurry-up offense almost exclusively in the shotgun formation.

With last year’s starting quarterback Ken Emmons out of the picture, juniors Nick Rosati and Teron Tyre will be competing for the job. With regards to this spring season Rosati had this to say, “It was much more difficult than last year’s spring ball, but I don’t think I have ever learned so much. As a football player and a person I have grown immensely.” There is also a vacancy at the running back position after the graduation of leading rusher Mike Fourth. In regards to the running backs Coach Fitzgerald said, “We got a bunch of kids we like. I can’t tell you who the guy is going to be, but they’ve all flashed. Right now it’s running back by committee.” The Bobcats are also returning their top two receivers in Hayden Roberts and Antonio Wood, both of whom appeared in all 10 contests in 2013.

The offensive line next year will be anchored by veteran Kyle Gordon. Gordon claims there is a dramatic difference between spring ball this year under Coach Fitzgerald compared to last year. “It’s a whole lot more intense,” said Gordon, “We also had a lot of competitions within the team that have made everyone more competitive.”

Defensively, the Bobcats will employ an attacking 4-3 formation with a lot of blitzes and pressure, according to Fitzgerald. Coach Fitzgerald expects nose tackle Roland Kamara and defensive end Alphonzo White to have a huge impact on the defensive line. Defensive end Colin Gordon, who led the team in sacks last season, will also be returning. The Bobcats are unsettled at the linebacker position as of now, with a lot of guys fighting for playing time, according to Coach Fitzgerald. Keith Smith and Salaman Riddell will be returning next year as defensive backs. Both Smith and Riddell are very experienced, each of them appeared in all 10 games and finished the season with the third and fourth most tackles on the team, respectively. Like many others, Keith Smith too has high expectations for next year saying, “I expect us to be more enthused in everything we do, to focus, fight, and finish everything, and not to settle for anything less than perfect.”

Coach Fitzgerald seems to have brought with him an infectious desire to work harder than ever. The weight room in Cordts P.E. Center is often overflowing with excited and enthusiastic football players putting every ounce of energy into their workout. It is easy to see that there is a renewed energy and sense of urgency amongst the players. It is not uncommon to see Coach Fitzgerald observing them workout from a distance. He has brought a winning attitude to this team, and hopefully next season will be the best in recent memory.

“We will get this ship righted,” said Coach Fitzgerald with ice cold confidence.

 

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